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Still standing tall: Russia’s incredible Ryazan Kremlin seen through 100 years of photographs

The iconic structure has survived through the ages despite centuries of upheaval

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We are very pleased to present an article from the great Professor William Brumfield, (Wikipedia), Professor of Slavic Studies at Tulane University, New Orleans, USA.

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Professor William Brumfield is among the world’s foremost experts on Russian architecture, and he has a genuine heartfelt love for the Russian culture and people. His work in photographing some of Russia’s most famous, and obscure sites has gone a long way in preserving these parts of Russia’s national heritage, by drawing attention to their beauty and need for preservation.

One of the Professor’s photographs of Dormition Cathedral in Vladimir, Russia

This earned him the respect of Russians, and an honorary fellowship in the illustrious Russian Academy of the Arts founded in 1757.

His most recent masterpiece takes the readers to the farthest reaches of the world: “Architecture At The End Of The Earth, Photographing The Russian North (2015). (Amazon). The Amazon copy is quite affordable. and a must for any lover of Russian architecture, as his classic “A History of Russian Architecture” provides a great overview of Russia’s glorious culture as portrayed in her monumental works.

Russia Beyond the Headlines has happily joined in at making Professor Brumfield’s available.

Hats off to William Brumfield; we wish him a heartfelt Многая Лета – Monohaya Leta (Many Years) for all his work in preserving Russia’s ancient culture!

Professor Brumfield’s work has opened a portal into Holy Russia. May all those who wish to see therein, and be amazed at what beauty she has to offer the world.

And so it was that “Beauty will save the world.” ~ Fyodor Dostoyevsky

The following material originally appeared at Russia Beyond the Headlines:

Still standing tall: Russia’s incredible Ryazan Kremlin

The iconic structure has survived through the ages despite centuries of upheaval.
Ryazan Kremlin, south view. Background: Cathedral bell tower, Dormition Cathedral. Foreground: wall of Transfiguration Monastery with West Gate&Church of St. John, Transfiguration Cathedral (right). Aug. 28, 2005.

Ryazan Kremlin, south view. Background: Cathedral bell tower, Dormition Cathedral. Foreground: wall of Transfiguration Monastery with West Gate&Church of St. John, Transfiguration Cathedral (right). Aug. 28, 2005. William Brumfield

At the beginning of the 20th century, the Russian chemist and photographer Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky developed a complex process for vivid color photography (see box text below). His vision of photography as a form of education and enlightenment was demonstrated with special clarity through his images of architectural monuments in the historic sites throughout the Russian heartland.

In summer 1910, Prokudin-Gorsky made a series of journeys along the Oka River, a major tributary of the Volga. During these trips, he took numerous photographs in Ryazan, 190 km southeast of Moscow. My photographs of the town were taken over an extended period from 1984-2006.

Ryazan Kremlin. Background: Dormition Cathedral. Foreground: wall of Transfiguration Monastery, Transfiguration Cathedral (far right). Summer 1912.

Ryazan Kremlin. Background: Dormition Cathedral. Foreground: wall of Transfiguration Monastery, Transfiguration Cathedral (far right). Summer 1912. Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky

At the time of Prokudin-Gorsky’s visit, Ryazan had a population of around 45,000. Today it is a growing city with a population of over half a million. Known for its historic monuments, the Ryazan kremlin has one of Russia’s most imposing cathedrals at its center.

A turbulent history

Few of the ancient cities of the Russian heartland have endured a more turbulent history than Ryazan. Already an important town in the 11th century, by the middle of the 12th century Ryazan had become the center of a major principality that held sway over extensive territory in the Oka River basin. It had massive earthen-wall fortifications, portions of which have survived to the present as one of the largest archeological sites in Russia.

Ryazan Kremlin, northwest view. From left: Archbishop's Palace, Cathedral of Nativity of Christ, Dormition Cathedral, Epiphany Church, Transfiguration Cathedral, bell tower. Summer 1912.

Ryazan Kremlin, northwest view. From left: Archbishop’s Palace, Cathedral of Nativity of Christ, Dormition Cathedral, Epiphany Church, Transfiguration Cathedral, bell tower. Summer 1912. Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky

In 1237, Ryazan was devastated by the Mongols, and attempts to re-establish settlements in the immediate area were undercut by Tatar raids over the following decades. By the 14th century, the local church and political leadership decided to re-establish Ryazan at the better-defended settlement of Pereyaslavl, 55 km northwest at the point where the small Trubezh River empties into the Oka.

For centuries, the town was known as Pereyaslavl-Ryazansky. By the beginning of the 15th century, Pereyaslavl-Ryazansky had a large fortress (kremlin) whose earthen ramparts are well preserved. Prokudin-Gorsky and I both photographed the kremlin from the northwest, but his view – available only in a contact print – shows the Trubezh River more clearly.

Ryazan Kremlin, northwest view. From left: Church of Holy Spirit, Archbishop's Palace, Cathedral of Nativity of Christ, Archangel Cathedral, Dormition Cathedral, Epiphany Church, Transfiguration Cathedral, bell tower. May 13, 1984.

Ryazan Kremlin, northwest view. From left: Church of Holy Spirit, Archbishop’s Palace, Cathedral of Nativity of Christ, Archangel Cathedral, Dormition Cathedral, Epiphany Church, Transfiguration Cathedral, bell tower. May 13, 1984. William Brumfield

Although the threat of Tatar raids eventually waned, the region was afflicted by famine and disease at the end of the 16th century and wracked by violent disorders in the early 17th century during the dynastic interregnum known as the Time of Troubles. In 1778, the town was designated simply Ryazan.

A cathedral’s construction, collapse and resurrection

The city’s greatest monument is the Cathedral of the Dormition, whose name derived from the 12th centurycathedral of the same dedication in Old Ryazan. At the turn of the 15th century, a masonry cathedral dedicated to the Dormition was erected in Ryazan. In the early 1680s, Metropolitan Pavel of Ryazan (served from 1681 to 1686) undertook to build a much larger cathedral to meet the needs of an expanded diocese. Work began in 1684, but the completed structure, poorly built, collapsed on an April night in 1692.

Ryazan Kremlin. Dormition Cathedral, west facade. Summer 1912.

Ryazan Kremlin. Dormition Cathedral, west facade. Summer 1912. Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky

After the initial debacle, the project was entrusted by the next metropolitan, Avraamy (who served from 1687 to 1700), to the renowned architect Yakov Bukhvostov. Like his hapless predecessors, Bukhvostov faced serious challenges with the foundations and the roof vaulting for the immense structure. He was also involved in other projects at the time and faced court litigation on one of them.

Nonetheless, with the assistance of local master builders, the structure was completed in 1699. Another three years were spent on its interior, including the construction of a large icon screen. In August 1702, the cathedral was consecrated by a third metropolitan, Stefan Yavorsky (1658-1722), who became one of the leading prelates of the Russian Church during Peter the Great’s reign.

But the travails of the building were not over. Thanks to its exposed location and height, the roof and cupolas, as well as the upper windows, were frequently damaged. The structure itself seemed under threat because of leakage and resulting cracks in the walls. In 1800, the Holy Synod in St. Petersburg issued a directive stating that the structure should be demolished and rebuilt.

Ryazan Kremlin. Dormition Cathedral, west facade. May 13, 1984.

Ryazan Kremlin. Dormition Cathedral, west facade. May 13, 1984. William Brumfield

Fortunately, Metropolitan Simon of Ryazan (bishop from 1778 to 1804) decided to consult with the local council and, with the support of wealthy merchants, marshaled the resources to undertake fundamental repairs. Russia’s architectural heritage benefited immeasurably from the wisdom and diplomacy of an experienced bishop. Alas, Simon died in January 1804, a few months before the reconsecration of the cathedral in August.

A unique building

The Ryazan Dormition Cathedral represents one of the most distinctive designs in the history of Russian church architecture. Over 40 meters tall with five large drums and cupolas as well as extensive window space, the structure is balanced on a complex system of cellar vaults, which also support a terrace platform for the cathedral. The cathedral’s roofline was designed as a horizontal cornice with decorative brick patterns.

Ryazan Kremlin. Dormition Cathedral, north facade. Carved limestone columns. Summer 1912.

Ryazan Kremlin. Dormition Cathedral, north facade. Carved limestone columns. Summer 1912. Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky

The tall windows were framed with carved limestone columns and pediments. The 5,000 blocks comprising the limestone details were standardized, thus enabling the architect to complete the structure within six years, a relatively short period in view of the complexity of the project. Although preserved only in a contact print, Prokudin-Gorsky’s direct frontal view from the west conveys with striking clarity the segmented facade design.

Ryazan Kremlin. Dormition Cathedral, west facade with main portal. May 13, 1984.

Ryazan Kremlin. Dormition Cathedral, west facade with main portal. May 13, 1984. William Brumfield

The window surrounds and the paired brick columns (painted white) that vertically divide the brick facades provide a palatial ambience to one of the largest churches of the 17th century – larger, in fact, than the Dormition Cathedral in the Moscow Kremlin. Prokudin-Gorsky’s detailed photographs and mine convey the vivid contrast between the white ornamental trim and the red brick background.

Ryazan Kremlin. Dormition Cathedral, west facade. Main portal. May 13, 1984.

Ryazan Kremlin. Dormition Cathedral, west facade. Main portal. May 13, 1984. William Brumfield

Closed in 1929, the Dormition Cathedral was used for archival storage and in the 1960s began to function as a museum. Services resumed in 1993, and in 2008 the cathedral was formally returned to the Ryazan Diocese.

To the west of the cathedral at the edge of the kremlin stands the enormous bell tower, built over a half-century from 1789 to 1840. At least three architects were involved in its construction, including Andrey Voronikhin, one of the major architects of St. Petersburg at the beginning of the 19th century.

Prokudin-Gorsky’s contact print – and my photographs – give an idea of the scale of the bell tower in relation to other kremlin structures. The contrast between the Neoclassical bell tower and the decorative mannerism of the Dormition Cathedral provides an exemplary view of the dramatic changes in Russian architecture over the long 18th century.

Ryazan Kremlin. Dormition Cathedral, east view. August 28, 2005.

Ryazan Kremlin. Dormition Cathedral, east view. August 28, 2005. William Brumfield

In the early 20th century the Russian photographer Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky devised a complex process for color photography. Between 1903 and 1916 he traveled through the Russian Empire and took over 2,000 photographs with the process, which involved three exposures on a glass plate. In August 1918, he left Russia and ultimately resettled in France with a large part of his collection of glass negatives. After his death in Paris in 1944, his heirs sold the collection to the Library of Congress.

In the early 21st century the Library digitized the Prokudin-Gorsky Collection and made it freely available to the global public. Many Russian websites now have versions of the collection. In 1986 the architectural historian and photographer William Brumfield organized the first exhibit of Prokudin-Gorsky photographs at the Library of Congress.

Over a period of work in Russia beginning in 1970, Brumfield has photographed most of the sites visited by Prokudin-Gorsky. This series of articles will juxtapose Prokudin-Gorsky’s views of architectural monuments with photographs taken by Brumfield decades later.

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Putin, Trump meet in Helsinki for first bilateral summit

The Helsinki summit is the first ever full-fledged meeting between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. Their previous encounters were brief talks on the sidelines of the G20 and APEC summits in 2017.

Vladimir Rodzianko

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Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump are meeting in the Finnish capital of Helsinki for their first bilateral one-on-one meeting.

Trump arrived in the Finland capital a day early, while the jet of Putin, who wrapped up his nation’s hosting of the World Cup Sunday, touched down around 1 p.m. local time and the Russian president’s motorcade whisked him straight to the palace where the two world leaders are meeting.

Trump signed an August 2017 law imposing additional sanctions on Russia. The law bars Trump from easing many sanctions without Congress’ approval, but he can offer some relief without a nod from Congress.

Almost 700 Russian people and companies are under U.S. sanctions. Individuals face limits on their travel and freezes on at least some of their assets, while some top Russian state banks and companies, including oil and gas giants, are effectively barred from getting financing through U.S. banks and markets.

The agenda of the summit hasn’t been officially announced yet, though, the presidents are expected to discuss global crises, such as the Syrian conflict and Ukraine, as well as bilateral relations.

Stay tuned for updates…

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Peter Strzok testifies, reveals partisan warfare (VIDEO)

Partisan bickering main event as FBI Agent Peter Strzok is used as the pawn to prove legitimacy of RussiaGate investigation

Seraphim Hanisch

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Peter Strzok appeared before the House Judiciary Committee to testify about his part in regards to the improper handling of the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation and Robert Mueller’s RussiaGate investigation. The hearing was so contentious and partisan that it stalled at this point for quite a while.

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The Republicans went one way with this, and the Democrats went the other. All the while, Agent Strzok sat there as all this happened. Representative Bob Goodlatte was furious with the situation, as one can see.

Vox News reported on this as well, calling the event a “ridiculous circus.” 

FBI agent Peter Strzok’s testimony before Congress on Thursday collapsed into a full-on partisan circus, with Republican and Democratic members shouting at each other, House Judiciary Chair Bob Goodlatte threatening to hold Strzok in contempt, and Democrats staging an over-the-top political stunt…

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Strzok exchanged a series of text messages with Lisa Page, an FBI lawyer with whom he was having an affair, that were critical of Trump. In one particularly controversial exchange, Page texted Strzok that she was worried Trump might win. “No. No, he won’t. We’ll stop it,” Strzok reassured her.

Trump and many of his Republican allies have seized on these text messages as proof of anti-Trump bias in the FBI and to discredit the Mueller probe — the investigation Trump calls a “Rigged Witch Hunt.”

His appearance before a joint session of the House Judiciary and House Oversight Committees on Thursday was the first time he had publicly testified before Congress since the revelations about his texts.

It was bound to be a contentious hearing — and so far, it has been.

Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings (MD), the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, immediately accused Reps. Goodlatte and Trey Gowdy (R-SC), the chair of the House Oversight Committee, of deliberately trying to interfere with the special counsel investigation after Mueller obtained five guilty pleas from people associated with the Trump campaign in recent months.

And Cummings brought along some pretty spectacular signs to make the point.

As he spoke, Democratic staffers held huge signs with the names and photos of the five people affiliated with the Trump campaign who have already pleaded guilty in the Mueller probe: former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates, former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, London lawyer Alexander van der Zwaan, and Richard Pinedo, a California man who committed identity theft as part of the Russian election interference campaign.

Republicans first objected to the sign-holding, but seemed to back off when Democrats asked them to cite which rules the signs violated. The signs stayed up as Cummings listed what Flynn et al had pleaded guilty to and slammed Republicans for interfering with the advancement of the Trump-Russia probe.

As the hearing continued, lawmakers fought over what kinds of questions Strzok should be obligated to answer.

Gowdy’s very first question for Strzok — about how many witnesses he had interviewed in the opening days of Russia probesparked a huge debate. Strzok responded that he was not permitted to answer the question based on instructions from the FBI. Then Goodlatte threatened to hold Strzok in contempt for not answering the question.

“Mr. Strzok, you are under subpoena and are required to answer the question,” Goodlatte said.

Democratic lawmakers interrupted Goodlatte and objected loudly in defense of Strzok.

“This demand puts Mr. Strzok in an impossible position,” Jerry Nadler, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, responded. “If we have a problem with this policy we should take it up with the FBI, not badger Mr. Strzok.”

Strzok then asked to speak to the FBI general counsel before answering the question.

When Goodlatte responded that Strzok could only consult “with your own counsel,” that set off another testy exchange. Per CNN:

At one point, Strzok suggested that his removal from the special counsel’s Russia investigation was driven by optics. “It is not my understanding that he kicked me off because of any bias … it was done based on the appearance,” Strzok said, adding that he “didn’t appreciate” the way Gowdy was framing the issue.

Gowdy replied, “I don’t give a damn what you appreciate, Agent Strzok.”

“I don’t appreciate having an FBI agent with an unprecedented level of animus working on two major investigations during 2016,” Gowdy added.

The stakes are high here, which may explain the tense nature of the hearing. If Strzok’s defense of his past actions is received well by the public, he could potentially deal a serious blow to the power of right-wing narratives about FBI corruption.

But if he comes off looking bad it will do damage to the credibility of the Mueller probe — and Mueller’s ability to investigate the full extent of Trumpworld’s relationship with Russia.

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COLLUSION: Peter Strzok reveals THREE different versions of the ‘Trump Dossier’

FBI Special agent caught hiding fact of multiple versions of dossier during questioning by House Judiciary Committee

Seraphim Hanisch

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The salacious “Trump Dossier” that was spread as an amazing example of “fake news” being treated as real, received a further blow to its own credibility by none other than FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok on Thursday in the House Judiciary Committee hearing. Fox News notes that Mr. Strzok indicated that there was not one dossier, but three variations of this document – one held by Senator John McCain, a second by Mother Jones writer David Corn, and Fusion GPS owner Glenn Simpson.

Fox goes on to say:

Rudy Giuliani on Thursday slammed the “totally phony” Russia probe after anti-Trump FBI agent Peter Strzok refused to identify the individuals who apparently handed the bureau three different copies of the salacious Trump dossier.

“Isn’t that called collusion or conspiracy to gin up a totally inappropriate, totally illegally wire based on national security? And doesn’t it taint the entire Russian probe?” Giuliani told Fox News’ Laura Ingraham on “The Ingraham Angle.”

“That’s a disgrace, [Special Counsel Robert] Mueller should be ashamed of himself. Those Democrats trying to protect that liar, Strzok, should be ashamed of themselves. And every FBI agent I know wants to see this guy drummed out of the bureau,” he said.

Giuliani said the dossier led to fake news and the “national intelligence wiretap” of the Trump campaign officials.

“So how much of it is infecting the investigation today? We may never know, which is why I think the investigation is totally phony,” he added.

The inquiry into the dossier occurred during a fiery exchange earlier between Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and Strzok, who appeared before a joint House committee about his role in the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Jordan pressed Strzok about an email he sent to his colleagues, including FBI lawyer Lisa Page with whom he had an extramarital affair, indicating that he has seen different versions of the infamous Trump dossier from three different sources.

Jordan said he had the email the he sent to Page and several others with the subject: “BuzzFeed is about to accomplish the dossier.”

“It says this, ‘Comparing now the set is only identical to what (Sen. John) McCain had, parentheses, it has differences from what was given to us by (Mother Jones’ David) Corn and (Fusion GPS founder Glenn) Simpson.’ Did you write all that?” Jordan asked.

Strzok refused to answer and declined to confirm whether there were three copies of the dossier the FBI had its hands on, saying he can’t answer under the directive of the bureau.

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